Editor’s Introduction |
The Aspirational Humanhood of Science Fiction
It has been said that science fiction is the “literature of ideas” and HG Wells wrote that “Human history in essence is the history of ideas.” What beautiful thinking. It is indeed all about ideas. At the very heart of human inspiration is the idea. Ideas have always been the driving force of humanity, both at the individual level and that of civilization as a whole. How could it be any other way? Literally everything around us, that is not naturally formed, is the physical manifestation of an idea. A pencil. This computer. My hat. Your shoes. That microwave oven. They all started as an idea. Philosophers have long asked what does it mean to be human? What is the meaning of life? And so on. Scientists have long tried to definitively differentiate the human animal from the rest of the animal kingdom. I don’t think that one needs to look any further than the human imagination to find the answer. Ideas are the product of the human imagination, even those of a practical nature. We are then, our species, the sum total of our ideas.
Unity Through Ideas
Ideas are powerful. They can unite us and they can divide us. Ideas precipitate revolution, war, and social upheaval. They generate extraordinary advances and solutions to the most complex challenges facing human civilization. Ideas have brought us on this long journey towards becoming a spacefaring race. Importantly, ideas are also lots of fun. Ideas are the inspiration of science fiction, its very breath, and I see it as being a great unifier of the human being.
The hopes, dreams, and marvels, the spirit of adventure and exploration, the battle between good and evil, the humbling forces of a vast and bewildering physical universe; all of these elements and themes of our existence and so much more are encapsulated in science fiction.
They speak to every human being. To the dream universal. Uniting us in a shared vision of the possible, and the conceivable.
Our ideas will transport us across space and time. We started with the Moon. Now we venture towards Mars, long a dream for our species in the continuum of ideas that is space exploration. We will never find another true home, though. We take Earth much for granted and treat her poorly. The dangerous idea that we can discard this planet for another is flawed and foolish thinking, perhaps driven by our increasingly consumeristic approach to everything that we come into contact with, and it is a mindset that is not deserving of the grand expanse that is the human imagination.
Not all ideas are good ideas. But that’s part of the human experience, I suppose — and we’ll have to learn some of our lessons the hard way, as has often been the case throughout our brief and tumultuous history on this blue planet spinning through space.
Speculating about and planning for the future is of great value. Science fiction can guide us in this respect, helping us to navigate the deep and treacherous waters of bad ideas. If we can imagine it through science fiction, it can quite possibly come to pass, both the good and the bad, and so we can plan accordingly. Science fiction can be used as a practical tool of forethought, providing opportunities for thought experimentation and contingencies: A collective blueprint of ideas that can benefit humanity in building a better future.
Heinlein & Space Cadet
The name of this literary magazine is of course, a nod to the science fiction novel Space Cadet, written by one of the most influential science fiction writers of all time, arguably the most, Robert A. [Anson] Heinlein, sometimes called the “dean of science fiction writers.” Heinlein was among the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction — something that would have greatly endeared him to both Hugo Gernsback and Dr. T. [Thomas] O’Conor Sloane of Amazing Stories — and was therefore a pioneer of the subgenre of hard science fiction. As well, this journal reflects the popular-culture term, “space cadet,” which, originating with Heinlein’s book, evolved to mean different things at different times in our society.
See Wendy Van Camp’s excellent book review of Space Cadet in this issue and her illuminating etymological treatment of this term.
Hooked on Science Fiction
That science fiction is the literature of ideas makes it all the more special to me. I have always been inspired by ideas. I have found a good idea to be the greatest of highs and like any state of euphoria, when the initial rush begins to subside, I look for another idea. It is only through hard-earned discipline and a sometimes excruciating application of willpower that I am able to focus long enough to see any idea arrive at some modest semblance of fruition.
I have written extensively about my love of science fiction in the introductions to past issues of The Starlight SciFaiku Review and The Flying Saucer Poetry Review. You may find my “origin stories” in those magazines to be of interest.
I was hooked on science fiction at the precise moment I learned of its existence. It called to me. Long before I learned that my great-great grandfather was the editor of Amazing Stories or that my grandfather was Isaac Asimov’s editor at Doubleday. Those things just made me feel that much more connected with its history, but it wasn’t the catalyst for my fascination. My process of exploration and discovery has been a gradual one, each step along the way igniting a new sense of fascination with the genre, propelling me ever onward.
Discovering Lone Sloane by Philippe Druillet was one of those moments. Discovering SciFaiku was another. I could barely sleep for days after, as I wrote poem after poem, reveling in the capacity of being able to get so many brief, vivid ideas onto the page — and completed in a recognized poetic form! It felt like pulling the trigger on a cognitive Uzi of ideas. I was so taken with SciFaiku in fact, that I ultimately established The Starlight SciFaiku Review, managing to publish some new work from Tom Brink who had presented and popularized the poetic form through publication of The SciFaiku Manifesto in 1995, along with new work from a host of other very talented and accomplished scifaijin. It was the kind of creative lucubration that I love the most: one that actually produces a tangible product from an idea versus those that swirl about one’s mind like brightly-colored leaves in the Autumn winds, only to dissolve back into eternity.
Science fiction inspires my days, and I am quite confident that it does the same for you! What an amazing thing this vehicle of ideas called science fiction is. Good literature buoys the appreciative mind submerged in the daily grind. Inspiration awaits! Break free and set sale for the stars with some science fiction reading. The dishes can wait. Leave the sweeping for another day, the stardust will continue to accumulate after all. Treat yourself right, go get your longboard reading technology and start surfing the wondrous waves of thought on the great ocean of ideas that is science fiction! You’ll feel better and thank yourself for it later.
In This Amazing Issue
This issue is full of exceptional work done by exceptionally talented folks. It’s not every day that a magazine is lucky enough to have an internationally acclaimed artist like Michael Alan Alien provide the cover art and a feature interview. Or to have a former NFL player write an essay about his love of science fiction, its influence in his life, and its parallels with organized sport. Or actor and artist Richard Grieco providing the back cover art. Or to have journalists Leslie Kean and John Horgan grace these pages with their magnificent interview, originally published in Scientific American and reprinted here with kind permission from John, on UFOs and things that go bump in the night. Or to have the cosmic explorer and discoverer Daniel Pomarède honor these pages with his work. Wow!
I can honestly say that this literary journal contains some of the best science fiction work that I have ever read. Perhaps I should read more you might say, and while I would definitely see the humor in that statement, I fully stand by my statement. In fact, I’m already feeling anxious about what promises to be a very difficult decision-making process for nominations when the time comes.
This issue is chock-full of work from award winners and nominees — an indication of the high-quality writing these talented folks produced for this lit mag — that range from the Pushcart Prize to the Elgin Award. Irina Moga just received an annual literary honor in France and still managed to get a poem to me in time for this debut issue. There are even a couple of Rhysling Award winners in here, but I only know this because I like to search contributors’ names to read more of their work available online. In the process, I often discover interesting things about their literary accomplishments that they don’t necessarily add to their author bio each time out. I remember learning that a writer I had nominated for a Pushcart Prize and another that I had nominated for a Rhysling Award had both been nominated for those honors in previous years, but it was news to me. I remember thinking, Well, of course they were! And it made me happy.
In this issue, there is work from a full contingent of very accomplished writers who have honored this publisher with their work in each literary journal Starship Sloane has produced thus far. To say that I’m appreciative would be an understatement. None of these magazines would have come into existence if it were not for these and all of the writers who have had enough confidence in this brand-new publisher to send in their beautiful work. This is still a new venture, just slightly less shiny. We are a little over a year old now. Imagine that!
In an exciting development, I had contacted the journalist Leslie Kean, whose work I respect enormously and whose extraordinary reporting on the UFO phenomenon for The New York Times and other outlets has arguably done more to bring the phenomenon to the public’s attention in an authoritatively researched and indisputably factual manner than anybody else out there. In the process, elevating the phenomenon from the beloved realm of science fiction to that of exciting and perhaps unsettling, fact. I had hoped that she might write an essay for this magazine on the intersection of the UFO phenomenon and science fiction in the public psyche, or anything along those lines. To my happy astonishment, she responded, such a class act, but to my disappointment she did not have the time to put something together for this lit mag as she is working on multiple projects, as one might imagine! I look forward to seeing her new work. However, to my great delight, she stated that a reprint of one of her articles could be arranged. I quickly decided on her interview with John Horgan, that had appeared in Scientific American, having read it previously. I had thought it was the most interesting interview I’d ever read on any subject. Leslie stated that she too liked that one a lot and put me in contact with John, who very generously granted reprint permission. So, I am very happy to say that you will find “Should Scientists Take UFOs and Ghosts More Seriously?” in this issue! Thank you, John and Leslie.
John and Leslie’s interview ties-in beautifully with the various projects this publishing house works on. For those of you who are familiar with some of our work, The Flying Saucer Poetry Review was established through my absolute fascination with the UFO phenomenon. What had started as a literary and artistic exploration of the topic through a primarily science fiction lens, has now shifted fundamentally or perhaps more accurately, the lens has expanded significantly, as the UFO phenomenon is viewed less as science fiction and more as a strange and very real mystery. However, the phenomenon hovered about for so long as science fiction that it might always be considered such to some extent and nonetheless, we will keep writing our UFO poetry for that magazine, regardless of what genre it may occupy.
As I wrote earlier, science fiction possesses an inherently unifying capacity. The exploration of a speculative future involves us all, leaving none behind, nor should it be weighed down by the often-terrible baggage of the past. Having taught history for many years, although I recognize its importance, I eventually came to the conclusion that in some respects, it actually seems to do more harm than good, almost hindering the healthy progression of a society. Everything is controversial, adversarial, and a source of conflict these days. I don’t know what the solution might be exactly, but I do know that if we are chronically stuck in conflict over the past and literally everything else, no matter how valid we feel the reasons to be, we miss living fully in this day and embracing all that it offers, and we forfeit at least some of the potential of tomorrow. Broadly, as a society, we seem to have become almost pathologically divisive, our ceaseless antagonism towards one another, the hostility concerning just about anything you can imagine, is poisoning the now and will be carried forward into the future, perpetuating more of the same. Spiritual and self-help practice, training, and literature make this very clear. In a sense, I think that the study of history can be antithetical to this approach, and herein lies the great power of science fiction: Together, we can create a new and beautiful future for all, building extraordinary worlds of universal potential that are free from the dragging suck of the past. A limitless future awaits humankind and science fiction can show us the way!
The fandom of anything creates its own vibrant subculture, and I have found the science fiction community an amazing place to be. In it you will find wildly talented people, camaraderie, shared interests, rich and supportive literary relationships, up-all-night inspiration, fun, boundless creativity, and collegial competition.
For example, I am a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). The organization is simply amazing, doing so much for the science fiction community. I would highly recommend becoming a member, not only to help them in their mission of forwarding science fiction but also for the benefits of membership, which are many.
The SFPA is entirely volunteer run and the good people directly involved with operating the SFPA are also fully involved in their own various projects and endeavors. As such, there is an enormous amount of science fiction cross-pollination occurring: and it is enormously beneficial to all of us in science fiction. It is a community of collegial symbiosis and atmosphere, even while we necessarily advance the interests of our own publications. Our literary relationships can be encouragingly inclusive and supportive. For example, I am honored that Rhysling Award-winning F. J. Bergmann, editor of Eye to the Telescope, issue #44, the online journal of the SFPA; Pushcart Prize-nominated Wendy Van Camp, who will be the editor for issue #46; and Rhysling Award-nominated Jean-Paul L. Garnier, editor of Star*Line, the official print journal of the SFPA, all contributed wonderful work to this debut issue. In turn, I have submitted work for consideration to Eye to the Telescope and the anthology for which Wendy Van Camp serves as editor, Eccentric Orbits 3.
One of my newest contributors in creative collaboration is the aforementioned, estimable Jean-Paul L. Garnier, owner of Space Cowboy Books (a bookstore and publisher) in Joshua Tree, California, the host of the Simultaneous Times podcast, and the current editor of the SFPA’s Star*Line magazine. In the recent 24th Annual Critters Readers Poll, The Flying Saucer Poetry Review (a Starship Sloane mag) was locked in a rollicking back-and-forth battle with the SFPA’s ETTT in the best magazine/ezine category, we finally managed to edge them out for 2nd place but meanwhile we were also locked in another, equally rollicking back-and-forth battle with the SFPA’s Star*Line in the best magazine/ezine cover artwork category! We were in second place, they were in first, then on the last day we were first, and I thought we had it, but by the next day, the official results placed them first — hats off to the SFPA and Jean-Paul. I was concerned though; a mistake must have been made! We had the win, I thought, only to fall to 2nd. What had happened? Surely it was a mistake! So, I emailed Dr. Andrew Burt, the founder of Critters and of the world’s first internet service provider Nyx.net. His response was both humorous and kind — but entirely final: No mistake, the results were official.
Before I became a member, the SFPA had already added Starship Sloane Publishing magazines to their list of speculative poetry markets. I saw a jump in submissions, and they succeeded in both progressing the science fiction community a little further and in adding another degree of value to their specpo markets list as a go-to resource; it is an enlightened and welcome approach. I routinely see the names of my published contributors also published in the excellent SFPA magazines.
So, we are all winners in getting some recognition and publicity for our publications. It is this collegiality of friendly and supportive, competitive-lite collaboration that helps us all, from the poets to the readers, to the organizations involved – the whole science fiction community, really. This nicely reflects what people can do when they have a unified vision of how things can be. Compare this to what Ripley had to deal with, just no collegiality there at all!
Acknowledgements & Considerations
It is probably intuitive, but just toggle that little menu icon with the lines on the top-right of the page to open up the perfectly monstrous live-linked Table of Contents.
I am very pleased to be publishing work in this magazine from eleven countries located on every continent save Antarctica. I love that this is truly an international collaboration. Thank you, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Rwanda, Scotland, and the United States of America! You make my socks roll up and down.
I have always enjoyed reading the stories behind the stories. I hope that you enjoy the backstory vignettes that have been included for some of the work found in this literary magazine.
Many of our contributors speak British English. I have not edited for American English. After all, they invented the language! So, if you are an American who is wholly unfamiliar with the differences, just know that you will see words spelled differently and so forth. Yanks love to spell with the letter “z,” while the Brits use an “s.” Brits love to spell with “o” and “u” in tandem, while Yanks drop the “u.” Actually, we drop just about everything and combine whole sentences into one word. A prime example from here in my adopted state of Texas, “How do you do?” became “Howdy.”
This publishing house operates on a shoestring budget. We relentlessly squeeze every bit of production value out of what is available to us through our evolving level of technical expertise. We are not Vogue. We actually ran into some unexpected technology limits in putting this issue together, the sheer size of the publication presenting some challenges. Figuring out what we had to do so that the magazine would be what it was envisioned to be — and not having to spend additional money to make that happen — was a bit stressful and took a little time. All said and done, it probably set publication back by a few days. But that’s par for the course — and here we are, having prevailed. We could not be happier with the results!
I made the decision to publish various works that are perhaps a bit more representative of fantasy than science fiction, plus, an essay that is purely and beautifully scientific. This provides what I think to be a wonderfully comprehensive embrace of the spectrum of thought within which science fiction resides, one cognitive, perceptual, and practical cline transitioning into the next. I hope that you enjoy all of it! I think that I have come to more clearly understand why the Science Fiction Poetry Association became the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. I have also come to understand that Batman is a science fiction character, while Superman is a fantasy character. That Ironman is science fiction, while The Flash is fantasy. That while the Star Wars universe is science fiction, the Force itself is an element of fantasy within that universe. Sf and fantasy just go together, splendidly, like peanut butter and jelly — thanks, Kwame (see his essay on sports and science fiction in this issue). They are also just as difficult to separate when combined — but being such an ideal mixture, who’d want to anyway?
Thank you to Anita Dow, social media manager of The Martian Diaries by H. E. Wilburson, an award-winning sequel to The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, for the unwavering social media support that she kindly provides Starship Sloane Publishing on Twitter. It is genuinely appreciated!
Thank you as always to Dr. Matt Schumacher, the long-time editor of Phantom Drift, professor of English, best man at my wedding so very many years ago in Seattle, and the writer of the most mind-bendingly awesome poetry that I have ever had the pleasure to read: for sound advice and ongoing encouragement in the publishing endeavors of Starship Sloane.
Thank you also to my mother, Lorraine, who has the patience of a Saint and always provides sound advice in this and all of my ventures. As old and greying as I am, I still assail her with a steady torrent of wild and sometimes fanatical ideas, and she actually listens, if for no other reason than to talk some sense into me.
All work is presented in the order in which it was received and accepted for publication.
Author and artist bios are found on the page that contains their final piece of work in this magazine.
I extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every contributor to this literary magazine, your amazing work is what makes all of this possible — including my chronic sleep deprivation.
Finally, thank you, dear reader, for honoring this literary journal with your time and attention. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If a literary magazine is published online and nobody reads it, does it exist? Thank you for reading!
Justin T. O’Conor Sloane
The Space Cadet Science Fiction Review
19 April 2022